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Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer - Re: ECM

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Artist: Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer

Album: Re: ECM

Label: ECM

Review date: Sep. 6, 2011

Ricardo Villalobos is feted by the masses for his marathon live sets, and by music buffs for his decidedly alternative and considered approach to techno, chucking in everything from jazz to folk by way of traditional Brazilian percussion. He’s nothing if not novel, which should therefore mean that this excellent collaboration with Max Loderbauer of the Moritz Von Oswald Trio comes as little surprise — though it undoubtedly will, given how far removed Re: ECM is from the dancefloor.

ECM is one of the foremost European labels of any kind, releasing gorgeously assembled modern jazz and modern composition, and the genesis of this project can be traced to when the ever-curious Villalobos began integrating titles from the label’s catalogue into his live sets, notably the sparse works of Arvo Pärt and Alexander Knaifel. Inspired by the results, he recruited Loderbauer and together they set about working on what almost amounts to an homage to the various facets of ECM’s prodigious output.

I say “almost” because these two operators are far too canny to descend into vacant plagiarism or pastiche. That said, fans of Villalobos’ unrote rhythms will probably be baffled upon first hearing “Reblop,” when it edges cautiously out of their speakers. Lifted from a piece by modern composer Christian Wallumrod, it is a stately, minimalist track, with atmospheric piano and harp drifting out of phases of pronounced silence. Techno, this is not. But Villalobos and Loderbauer aren’t content to sit behind others’ achievements, and, armed with their modular synths and mixing desk, they sneak in throbbing synthetic bass lines and fragmented ambience, rearranging the piece into something wholly new. “Resvete,” meanwhile, shifts and shudders between stuttering percussion and meditative ambience. Whether playing with the sparse compositions of Pärt, or the experimental jazz of Bennie Maupin (as on “Rensenada”), Villalobos and Loderbauer create tracks that take the essence of the pieces they’re working on, and re-imagine them in often unpredictable ways, even going so far as to use the acoustic spaces from the ECM works to recreate the atmospheres of the originals whilst improvising with electronic textures and background ambience.

Villalobos’ night job still occasionally shines through. On “Reblazhentsva,” the pristine vocals and mournful violin lines of Alexander Knaifel’s “Blazhentsva” are married to restrained beats and swirling synth undertones, before segueing into crackling digital noise, creating one of the most exquisitely beautiful and surprising tracks on the album. Meanwhile, “Reannounce” toys with the Arabic music of Louis Sclavos’ “L’Imparfait des Langues,” looping its pulsating polyrhythms and submerging its warbling vocals in layers of waterlogged effects.

The deconstruction and subsequent reassembling of existing musical styles in a post-noise musical culture is an increasingly recurrent meme in popular and underground music these days. Re: ECM essentially takes the idea to its conceptual apex. Bold and exciting, the project demonstrates the infinite possibilities available to modern producers, if only they look in the unlikeliest of places.

By Joseph Burnett

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